Better Business Bureau is issuing an alert about a widespread scam that involves phony debt collectors who have an alarming amount of private information about their victims
According to reports received by BBB offices in several states, the scammers accuse the victim of defaulting on a loan and claim they are about to be sued. The victims are then given the chance to prevent this by wiring money or providing bank account information to the debt collector before the matter goes to court. In many cases, victims are subject to dozens of nasty, abusive phone calls in a matter of hours. The con artists claim to be from companies called “First Cash International,” the "Financial Accountability Association" or the "Federal Legislation of Unsecured Loans," BBB officials say.
More disturbing is that the bogus collectors have the victims' Social Security numbers, home addresses, information about employers, some credit references and even old bank account numbers. The victims are asked to "verify" other private information that could make them subject to identity theft.
"Even though they have sensitive information, they are not real debt collectors," said BBB President Kim States. "We have to imagine that this is the result of some serious data breach. We don't know the source of this breach as of yet, but our concern dictates that consumers be alerted to this immediately”.
Better Business Bureau has reported the scam to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Trade Commission. However consumers remain at risk.
If you get one of these phone calls DO NOT provide any verifying information. Either hang up or demand that the debt collector send verification of the debt in writing. Then:
* IMMEDIATELY put a fraud alert on your credit file with all of the major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Because the scammers have consumer Social Security numbers, your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft is increased.
* You will automatically get a copy of your credit report when you issue the fraud alert. Be sure to read it carefully and identify any item that's not yours.
* If there are numerous new accounts or "hard" inquiries-those are where you have supposedly requested credit-file a police report. (Soft inquiries are when a creditor has requested general information about you to provide a pre-approved offer of credit. These are quite common.)
* Also call BBB at (520)888-5353 if you believe a debt collector is trying to scam you.
Meanwhile, if you have gotten one of these harassing phone calls, please share the details and how you handled it for the benefit of other potential victims.
According to complaints from BBBs, phone numbers the scammers are using include: 949-468-5107, 415-200-0274, 213-784-5745, 916-236-4574 and many more.